Having previously seen McDonagh's The Pillowman at The Playhouse, and an excellent version of Hangmen via NT Live, I was well aware of McDonagh's dark humour. Beauty Queen maintains that edge, with its tale of spinster Maureen, and her relationship with her oppressive and demanding mother Mag, ill, but still outwardly manipulative of events. It's dark, not quite as dark as The Pillowman perhaps, but like that play, features one truly disturbing torture scene, so, it's not for the faint-hearted. That's not to say it isn't funny, that is McDonagh's trademark, making you laugh while being pretty sure deep down you probably shouldn't be.
While there are also two male characters in this play, and they do drive events from afar, this is primarily about the two women of the piece, especially at first Mag. She is played incredibly well, by an unrecognisable Kimberly Vaughen, looking and embodying the frail creature Mag has become. Stooped, staggering, but with enough energy and glint of the eye, to still get about controlling, and trying to stop the relationships that her daughter attempts to have. It's an incredible performance, one of the best upon the Playhouse stage in recent times.
Her daughter Maureen performed by Kate Billingham wields just the right amount of desperation in the role, allowing the character enough room to develop into what she becomes as the story unfolds. It's a rightfully scary performance at times, but at its core, desperately sad.
Liz Clark directs well, despite never being crowded of people, and it looks an absolute delight on Rod Arkle brilliant set, complete with appliances and even the very real, kitchen sink.
Performance reviewed: Saturday 16th March 2019 at the Playhouse Theatre, Northampton
The Beauty Queen Of Leenane ran until Saturday 16th March 2019 at The Playhouse Theatre, Northampton but have further dates on its tour. For details visit: whitecobraproductions.co.uk
For full details about the Playhouse Theatre visit their website at playhousenorthampton.com
Photos: Tom Jordan